Sunday, October 25, 2015

Malta, Europe's Fattest Country Laughs at Bike Share. A Municipal Lesson in Metaphor.

Malta has the dubious distinction of being Europe's fattest country.   Yes, that island country, where Queen Elizabeth II took her honeymoon.  That densely populated little island where Brits and Germans vacation, and where the population partakes of a so-called Mediterranean diet.  Well, that island still has miserable traffic jams, and terrible bus service.  The same nation that promotes is splendor for #cycling tourists has taken a stand - or a teehee - at the notion of bike lanes for its own people.  Apparently in Malta, driving a car has come to symbolize success.  Hmmm.  How very 1973 of the Maltese.  Parliamentarians there laughed and scoffed at the idea of bike lanes on the island.  Enjoy your rising healthcare costs Maltese leaders.  Please feel free to visit my country where Type-2 diabetes - often caused by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle - has created healthcare spending unprecedented.  Hahahahahahhaha.    Then pause, and think again about bike lanes.  Besides which, had I not been on a bike cruising through the plaza in front of the White House this week, I would not have heard an utterly beautiful version of Nessun Dorna being performed on the street right next to the bike lanes.  If you want to experience less joy, Maltese, stay the course.

Of all the things in the world for local politicians to decry as outlandish, a proposal for cyclists to roll through stop signs under safe circumstances would not strike me as municipal insanity.  If there are no cars coming, and you and your bike weigh not nearly enough to hurt a person, and it is night, and say you are a woman trying to get home safely, and maybe it has started to rain, or hail, or snow, and you elect to slowly ride your bike through a stop light/sign, you have not committed the moving violation equivalent of shooting up a housing project filled with toddlers with your AK-47.  San Francisco has proposed a law to allow cyclist to yield rather than stop in some instances.  Some politicians have reacted with outrage over the proposed law.  Go figure.

Did you ever wonder how Washington, D.C. made it all work with bike share?  Gabe Klein was the Director of the Department of Transportation when Capital Bike Share had its imperfect start.  This piece in GGW is worth a read if you want bike share to come to your city.  It may surprise some to learn that Cap Bike Share was not D.C.'s first share program.  But it was the first to shake off weak corporate sponsors, team with other jurisdictions, and use renewable solar power on docks and reduce the projected longterm capital expenditures of the program.

Mark Twain said that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.  We were reminded of that again this week when incorrect data was used to claim that a bike share station on Chicago's Southside was essentially never used.  Many have claimed that bike share is used by and built for wealthy whites.  Hmmmm.  It may presently be used more by whites, or the pigment challenged as I sometimes think of us, but as bike share crops up in other neighborhoods, it is being used, rather more than some folks let on.  So to those on Chicago's Southside, ride on.  Enjoy.  Ignore nonsense.  Bike share is for everyone. Pigment or none.

Are bike sales a good gauge of cycling interest?  In the U.K., in 2010, bike sales were in the billions of Pound Sterling.  Then in 2013, the market crashed.  A sort of mortgage meltdown without the confusing derivatives.  But now sales of bicycles are creeping back up again.  At some point, the market will be saturated and we should stop caring about bike sales.  Instead we will think only that people have and are using bikes.   Which brings us back the math lesson enthusiasts all know.  Remember, the number of bikes you can own is N +1, where N is the number of bikes you already known.  Once people figure this out, sales may increase.
What are your thoughts on whether we should pay attention to bike sales when evaluating interest in cycling?

Finally, I happened to be in Des Moines this past weekend.  I saw bike share and bike lanes.  Little use, but it was all there.  Cycling infrastructure and the Farm Report on the morning news.  If you happen to live in Des Moines and ride your bike, my hat is off to you, as they say.  You are a great American doing what must seem like a little thing.  You may help to change minds.

So, if I see you in the bike lanes, singing Nessun Dorna (just one of the best songs ever!) and you are here from Malta, or Des Moines,  let's be smug.

Elisa P.

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